Western Washington Favored To Repeat in GNAC Volleyball
Libero Samantha Hutchinson earned All-American honors last year.
Libero Samantha Hutchinson earned All-American honors last year.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Great Northwest Coaches Poll 2012 Records Pts.
1. Western Washington (7) 24-4, 16-2 (1st) 77
2. Central Washington (2) 21-8, 14-4 (2nd-T) 72
3. Alaska Anchorage 16-10, 11-7 (4th-T) 63
4. Western Oregon (1) 21-6, 14-4 (2nd-T) 61
5. Seattle Pacific 14-13, 11-7 (4th-T) 49
6. Montana State Billings 11-15, 8-10 (6th-T) 40
7. Northwest Nazarene 15-14, 8-10 (6th-T) 35
8. Alaska Fairbanks 6-18, 4-14 (8th) 21
9. Saint Martin's 6-18, 3-15 (9th) 16
   Simon Fraser 4-22, 1-17 (10th) 16
(Note: First-place votes in parenthesis. Points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis).

PORTLAND, Ore.  -   Three GNAC volleyball teams – Western Washington, Central Washington and Western Oregon – each won 20 or more matches a year ago.

All three, along with Alaska Anchorage, figure to be among the top teams this fall when the 2013 volleyball seasons begins.

Defending conference champion Western Washington is the preseason favorite in the GNAC Coaches poll receiving seven of 10 first-place votes.

The Vikings, who will be seeking their eighth conference title, are coming off a 24-4 season and are ranked 17th in the AVCA Division II national poll.

Central Washington (21-8 a year ago) earned two first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and finished second in the balloting, five points back of their arch-rivals.  The Wildcats also earned a No. 24 ranking in the inaugural AVCA poll.

Western Oregon (21-6) earned the remaining first-place vote in the coaches’ poll and finished fourth, two points behind third-place Alaska Anchorage.

All four teams return players who earned first team all-conference honors a year ago.

The Vikings have two – All-American libero Samantha Hutchinson and middle blocker Kayla Erickson. 

Hutchinson led  the GNAC and ranked fifth nationally in digs (6.41).  Erickson finished second in the conference in blocks (1.17) and third in hitting percentage (3.41).

Back to lead the Wildcats is middle blocker Erin Smith (5-10, Sr.),  who ranked second in hitting percentage (.362) and sixth in blocks (0.95) in earning first team all-conference honors.

Outside hitter Julia Mackey returns for Alaska Anchorage after averaging 3.13 kills and registering 52 blocks in earning first team honors  and sharing GNAC Freshman of the Year honors with Alaska Fairbanks outside hitter Sam Harthun.

Krissi Kemper was a first team all-conference selection last season for Western Oregon after registering a GNAC single-season record .425 hitting percentage and ranking fifth in blocks (0.95).

Kemper, teammate Becky Blees and Hutchinson are the lone returning statistical champions from the 2012 season.

Blees led the GNAC in total blocks with 114 averaging 1.33 per set.

The top returnees in the other major statistical categories include Monica Grimsrud and Kyndal Williams of MSU Billings in kills, points  and  assists,  and Jennica McPherson of Western Washington in service aces.

Grimsrud ranked fourth in kills and fifth in points. 

She averaged 3.64 kills per set finishing just ahead of Harthun, who averaged 3.49.  She also produced 4.04 points per set to rank fifth in that category.

Williams ranked fourth in assists averaging 10.01 and   McPherson finished second in service aces averaging 0.39.

The 2013 season for most GNAC schools begins the weekend of Sept. 6-7.

However, both Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Fairbanks will get an early start traveling to Hawaii for a series of matches beginning on Thursday, Aug. 29.

NEW COACHES: Four coaches will make their debuts in the GNAC this fall, including Mallory Larranaga of Alaska Fairbanks; Doug English of Cal State Northridge; Kara Peterson of Saint Martin’s, and Gina Schmidt of Simon Fraser.